Blank grassy canvas to tropical haven
Tim Richardson Sussex Garden size 8m x 17m
A boring back garden, laid to lawn with a narrow strip of flowerbed running down each side, has been transformed into a jungle hideaway. The couple have worked tirelessly over the past 19 years, doing all of the work themselves – digging out old concrete washing line posts and building a raised deck and pergola. To get the exotic feel they craved, in the UK climate, they make clever use of plants that look tropical, but are actually hardy, mixed in among the more tender plants.
I love the colonial feeling of the veranda – it really takes you overseas. This is a cohesive and considered garden Alan Titchmarsh
What have you done to make the garden?
We have always been mad keen on tropical plants, so we knew from the outset what we wanted from the first garden of our own. We stripped off the turf and installed our small wildlife pond, which is now visited by frogs and dragonflies. We also built a circular deck in the shade of next door’s Christmas tree, with a walkway over the pond. By the house, we built a second deck and a pergola, with a grape vine and chocolate vine growing over it. We wanted the feel of stepping out of the house onto a planter’s veranda, to survey the lush, tropical scene.
How do you protect your plants over winter?
Among the backbone of evergreens, we use hardy plants with a tropical feel that don’t need elaborate overwintering facilities. We then have colour in the garden from lilies, and annuals such as Mexican sunflowers, morning glory, dahlias, and black-eyed Susan. A few years ago, we decided we could no longer live without a greenhouse and managed to get one secondhand for overwintering the most tender plants.
What have been the biggest challenges?
The neighbour’s 50ft tall Christmas tree came down across our garden, in a storm a couple of years ago. It took out fence panels, some old garden furniture and gave the Magnolia a severe prune! The greenhouse was, amazingly, undamaged. The garden has benefitted in the long-run, however, as there is a lot more sunlight over the area now.
What do you love most about your garden?
The feel of the garden. It’s secluded, tranquil and gives us the illusion that we are far away in the tropics.
A tropical paradise – not an inch of lawn in sight Accent colours are repeated through the garden to bring harmony to the tropical feel The winding path creates a sense of intrigue and disguises the true size of the small plot Dramatic foliage creates the backbone for the exotic feel – many of the plants are hardy After
A small greenhouse is vital for overwintering Tim’s tender plants. Surrounded by foliage, it’s integral to the garden The veranda creates the perfect place to relax and survey the scene – it gives a nod to gardens found overseas, too Chairs hidden among the foliage provide the ideal place to escape and relax